The news that US president Donald Trump has tested positive for Covid-19 has elicited strong reactions. A frequent one, among detractors of the president, has been to point at the infection as retribution for his behavior regarding the disease in the past few months.
Surely, there is something ironic in the infection of a man who has has knowingly lied to minimize the danger posed by coronavirus for months, promising it would be gone by this past Easter, and pushing for a hasty reopening. Just this week, Trump was on stage mocking his adversary Joe Biden for wearing a mask, and now he and his wife have tested positive and are isolating.
Because “Karma is a bitch,” many observed.
Well, it most definitely is not. First of all, karma—or कर्म, which is actually pronounced karm in Hindi—is male.
But more to the point, no matter how strong your western need for short-term gratification, karma doesn’t pay back in days, or even weeks, months, or years—not within the span of the same life, anyway.
As the dictionary explains, karma is:
The force generated by a person’s actions held in Hinduism and Buddhism to perpetuate transmigration and in its ethical consequences to determine the nature of the person’s next existence.
This means that bad—or good—behavior gets rewarded or sanctioned not in this life, but in the next, since Hinduism believes in reincarnation.
Karma is frequently misunderstood to be some kind of magical tool to build good fortune by behaving well—”you get what you give,” “what goes around comes around,”—but that is far too simplistic. In this life, good fortune doesn’t come from behaving well, good fortune is behaving well. And in the next life—much as it happens with good deeds in Judaism and Christianity—all this good behavior (or its lack) will determine your fate, too.
Although of course nothing stops you from trying to influence your fate in this life, too—for instance, by wearing a mask, and encouraging others to do the same.